Review of Reformation Women

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Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodewaard makes accessible many biographical sketches of Reformation women who have not received a great deal of attention in Reformation studies.

This book provides insight into the life and impact of twelve women who greatly shaped the progress of the Protestant Reformation. The women come from a wide range of backgrounds but have one thing in common their commitment to seeing God glorified in their lives. One of the most remarkable women encountered in this work is Katharina Schutz whose involvement and interaction with the leading Protestant Reformers of her day is truly amazing.

While there are many books being published on the Protestant Reformation this one stands out in bringing to attention women whose accomplishments and service though great are largely forgotten in church history. If you’re looking to get a better understanding of the contribution women made to the Protestant Reformation this should be one of the first books you pick up.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Review of the Dawn of Christianity

Author Robert Hutchinson most recent title  The Dawn of Christianity provides a narrative account of the origin of Christianity beginning with the start of Jesus’s ministry and concluding with the Jerusalem Counsel which is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles. In this work Hutchinson draws heavily on the Scriptures and uses some secondary material to to shed light on the historical background of Jesus and the early church.

One of the greatest faults in this work in is Hutchinson’s willingness to discount the clear testimony of the gospel writers as occurs in the third chapter in which he casts some doubt as to whether those Jesus brought back to life were actually dead as is recorded in the gospel accounts. There isn’t much you’ll learn from this that couldn’t be learned through studying Luke and Acts, and in fact Luke in his accounts in Acts narrates more of the early church’s history concluding with Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. While well written there isn’t much to commend this book as ground breaking.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Martin Luther and the Enduring Word of God

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Noted Luther scholar Robert Kolb in this work helps remind readers that the Reformation sparked by Luther was itself a rediscovery of the Word. Kolb in this book traces that rediscovery and how it brought about the Scripture-centered church that rose out of the Reformation.

Kolb begins by addressing the place of Scripture in Luther’s childhood and youth highlighting that though the people were largely separated from the Scriptures there were aspects such as the reading of Gospel lessons which prevented the gospel from completely withering away under the papacy. Kolb proceeds to address Luther’s discovery of the Bible in the university as well as his overall understanding and interpretive framework. Kolb addresses the role the Scriptures placed in Luther’s work as professor, preacher, and translator. Kolb proceeds to address Luther’s shaping of his fellow colleagues.

One is reminded in this work the enduring power of God’s word. The Reformation and Luther’s life and legacy bear witness to the power of a church that finds its rhythm in the Biblical realities of repentance and forgiveness of sin, and that power holds promise for today as well.

Disclosure: I received an advanced review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Reformation Theology

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In Reformation Theology Matthew Barrett has brought together some of the leading theological minds of our day to provide a work that melds historical and systematic theology.

One could not ask for a better selection of contributors as each contributor stands as an expert in their respected field. Each chapter is truly representative of the course of doctrinal development in the Reformation with each author drawing on less famous Reformers and the confessions that arose from the Reformation.

This book would help many pastors and church leaders be awakened to the importance of doctrinal specificity, something lacking in many churches and broader evangelicalism.  Reading this work one is confronted with the fact the Reformers thought and engaged in doctrines concerning God and the Gospel in a way that many of us today have not. I appreciate most the fact that each author provides further recommended reading both secondary and primary sources and so any reader who wishes to delve deeper has a robust list of recommended reading to follow up on.

I know this book most likely won’t appeal to the average church members, but I do hope that many pastors would read this book and have their doctrinal indifference challenged.

Disclosure: I received an advanced review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Answers to Prayer (Read & Reflect with the Classics)

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B&H has recently started a new series called Read & Reflect with the Classics which seeks to  engage a new generation with classics that have impacted generations of Christians. One of the first titles in this series is George Muller’s Answers to Prayer a spiritual classic that should be on everyone’s shelf.

The first thing that sets this edition of Muller’s work apart from other editions is the superior binding. As a bibliophile it always bothered me that the best publishers would do for this spiritual classic is a mass market paperback. Muller’s account is one that should be read and reread as one never fails to find fresh encouragement in prayer in looking at God’s faithfulness in Muller’s life. This edition put out by B&H has a solid cloth binding which will hold up through many readings.

The second thing that makes this a superior edition is the addition of various promptings and questions the reader to actively engage with the text.

Muller’s life was one that clearly demonstrates the value and power of prayer, Bible reading, and meditating on Scripture. His work in the orphanage and the display of God’s faithfulness in answering prayer deserves repeating to every new generation of believers.

Disclosure: I received an advanced review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Katharina & Martin Luther

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In Katharina & Martin Luther author Michelle DeRusha sheds light on an often neglected aspect of Martin Luther’s life and legacy, namely his marriage.

This book provides biographical information on Katharina in regards to her cloistered life as a nun which is often neglected in resources on Luther. We see the boldness that defined Katharina recorded in the account of her escape from the cloister. As one reads one is amazed that the two ever became married given Martin Luther’s initial hesitance at the idea of marriage. Thankfully Martin Luther followed the encouragement of his father and the two did indeed marry. As is noted Katharina became a valued confident and source of joy for Martin Luther. Overall DeRusha provides an engaging look at Katharina and Martin’s marriage closing with her widowhood.

In leading up to the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this work helps address an area that the Reformation had a great impact on. It is all to easy to take for granted the idea that ministers can and should marry, however as the author points out Luther’s marriage was a major break from the Roman Catholicism which still embraces clerical celibacy. While Luther as the reformer and pastor-theologian draws much attention, many would benefit from observing Martin Luther the devoted husband and loving father.

I commend this book to anyone studying the life and legacy as it provides valuable insight into a part of his life that is often overlooked by biographers.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of The Legacy of Luther

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The Legacy of Luther edited by R.C. Sproul is a timely read in light of the coming celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This work brings together some of the bes church historians to address important aspects of Luther’s life and thought.

The contributors to this volume are: Stephen Nichols, Steven Lawson, David B. Calhoun, Joel Beeke, Michael Horton, Guy Prentiss Waters, Sinclair Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey, Gene Edwards Veith, Aaron Clay Denlinger, Scott Maentsch, Sean Michael Lucas, Terry Yount, Derek W.H. Thomas, and R.C. Sproul. The first section of this book provides a look into the life of Luther most significant in this section is Beeke’s chapter on Luther as a family man, which addresses Luther’s teaching on marriage and family and how he practically lived that out. This is one aspect of Luther’s life and thought that often goes underappreciated. The second section addresses Luther’s doctrinal understanding along the lines of the Solas of the Reformation. The final section addresses Luther’s ongoing contribution as a Bible scholar, his contribution to the broader Reformation, his impact as polemicist, his contribution to hymnody, and Luther’s impact on preaching. R.C. Sproul fittingly closes this work with a reflection on Luther as pastor-theologian.

Each author draws out important aspects of Luther’s life and thought. In reading this I did find it odd how little diversity there was in the denominational backgrounds of the contributors especially in light of the greater diversity in contributors found in John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion,  Doctrine,  Doxology. Especially surprising is the fact that a work on Luther only has two contributors from the Lutheran tradition. I think in exploring Luther’s more attention should have been given to the theology of the cross and its outworking in his theology.

Overall this is one of the better works out there on Luther that seek to address him in his own context and address his importance today. Some modern works seek to psychoanalyze Luther more than explore his doctrinal convictions and impact on church history, a pitfall these contributors happily avoid. If you’re looking to learn about Luther and why he is so significant in the development of church history this book is a must read.

Disclosure: I received an ecopy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Biblical Authority After Babel

Biblical Authority After Babel:Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity by Kevin Vanhoozer maybe one of the most important books on the impact of the Reformation and biblical interpretations to come out in recent years. As noted by Vanhoozer the Reformation is not and has not been without its critics and opponents. There is a vocal crowd that believes the Reformation is at fault for rampant Western individualism and the fractured nature of Christianity. As someone who is appreciative of the Reformers and the work of the Reformation I am grateful for Vanhoozer’s work in this book.

Vanhoozer begins his work by addressing the criticism that has circled around the Reformation. Looking at those who see the Reformers as the cause of the evils of modernity. This work is retrieval theology at its best. As Vanhoozer states in his introduction he is retrieving the priesthood of the believer in regards to biblical interpretation and catholicity as expressed in Mere Protestant Christianity. I agree with Vanhoozer when he says in the introduction, “The kind of Protestantism that needs to live on is not the one that encourages individual autonomy or corporate pride but the one that encourages the church to hold fast to the gospel, and to one another.”In this work he draws on the solas of the Reformation in addressing issues pertaining to interpretive authority, the church, and the priesthood of the believer.

With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation drawing near Vanhoozer has provided a book that ably defends the good that came from the Reformation, responding to the critiques surround’ the Reformers and building upon their contribution with an eye to future developments in Protestantism. In light of current trends in evangelicalism such as individualism, isolationism as seen in the growing nondenominational movement, and an ecumenical spirit which is critical of the Reformation I can think of no better book for pastors and leaders to read on these important issues.

Disclosure: I received an ecopy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Reformation 500 in 2017

This coming year will mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In light of that in the coming year I will be reviewing resources on the Reformation both new and old. I will also do a series of posts highlighting the significance of the Reformation for today. One of the first books I will be reviewing is Legacy of Luther edited by Stephen Nicholls and R.C. Sproul. You can get a free ecopy today only here (HT: Challies).